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Fantastical 3 review: You can throw all your other calendar apps in the trash

Fantastical 3 on iPad
(Image: © Lory Gil/iMore)

Our Verdict

Bottomline: With this update, Fantastical basically has it all. And with a premium subscription, you'll also always get the updates even if it doesn't currently have everything you need.

For

  • Beautiful redesign
  • Tons of new features
  • Dozens of features don't require a subscription
  • Upgraders keep Fantastical 2 features
  • Apple Watch app is stand-alone

Against

  • None

Flexibits just updated its Fantastical line of apps across the board to its third iteration. It's got so many new and awesome features that you won't even notice all of them right away. From weather reports to collaborative meeting time proposals. Fantastical has it all and then some. I'm finally ready to let go of my other calendar apps and just stick with this one. There's a lot to unpack here, so let's get started.

Personal rant

Let me take a moment to put some people on blast

I have to start off by saying how disappointed I was to see so many one-star App Store reviews for Fantastical with users hating on the subscription model and wanting to keep Fantastical 2. These haters have got it all wrong. Let me explain.

First of all, Fantastical is not subscription-only. It's still a wonderful calendar app if you don't want to pay for the many dozens of extra features. If you want to stick with a free version of Fantastical, and you've never downloaded the app before, this is what you get:

  • The same basic calendar features with adding and managing your calendar accounts
  • The same awesome reminders and tasks lists, including support for iCloud Reminders, Todoist, and Google Tasks (you just can't add tasks from Fantastical)
  • The same weather forecast support from AccuWeather (it's only three-days out instead of 10)
  • The same awesome natural language new event input
  • The same calendar set options
  • The same views, Lock screen widget, and Menu Bar add-on

It's still a fantastic Fantastical. There are just some new features that cost Flexibits money to run (like managing invite proposals). If you need those extra features, $40 per year is a small price to pay.

The features I listed above are actually for those that either never upgraded from Fantastical 1 or for those that have never used Fantastical before. If you're upgrading from Fantastical 2, you still get to keep Fantastical 2's great features!

This is the part that disappointed me so much in the App Store review section. People are complaining that they think Flexibits is forcing them to pay a subscription price to get the great features they are used to from Fantastical 2, but they're wrong. Let me break it down for you. If you already had Fantastical 2 and you're updating (or already updated) to Fantastical 3, these are the additional features you get that no one else gets for free:

  • Full-screen day, week, month and year views on Mac and iPad
  • The option to run in the background for the mini window on Mac
  • Full task support (including adding tasks in Fantastical)
  • Fantastical is now universal (not separate for iPad)
  • Stand-along Apple Watch app
  • Autocomplete recommendations for people and places
  • Adding invitees to new events
  • Attachments for Mac
  • Calendar sets for Mac
  • Travel Time/Time to Leave alerts on Mac
  • Push Notifications for Google and Exchange on Mac
  • Default alerts for new events
  • Time zone overrides
  • Invitations and ability to respond in Fantastical

These are special gifts that Flexibits has given to us, it's loyal customers, for supporting Fantastical 2, and some people feel justified giving a one-star review because they don't like the subscription model. It just burns me up inside.

Speaking of subscription models, Flexibits isn't turning to this model simply so it can make more money. From the company blog (opens in new tab), in addition to extra costs associated with running Fantastical 3, the company is moving to a more flexible upgrade cycle that gives us any and all great new features as they are ready. We don't have to wait two, three, or even five years for one big package of upgrades.

This is not about charging you a monthly fee just to get you to start paying monthly. We already have a big roadmap laid out where we can develop consistently and ship great new features and content on a consistent basis. We are looking forward to our new, predictable business where we get rewarded for our work as we do it.

Now that you have a better understanding of what the difference is between Fantastical 2 and Fantastical 3 and why Flexibits has gone to a subscription model, please hop over to the App Store and give it a proper and knowledgable rating.

On with the show

Fantastical 3 has everything

Fantastical 3

Fantastical 3 (Image credit: iMore)

If you are the kind of person that needs a robust and feature-rich calendar app, you're going to understand why this many features needs a subscription model and why it's worth the price (especially if you pay for a year upfront). There are dozens of new additions, from little things like custom event colors and alert sounds, to big things like event time proposal management. Let me start with the big ones.

Event time proposal management is probably Fantastical's biggest new feature and it allows you to schedule an event and suggest multiple date and time options to have invitees pick from. The invite is sent to everyone in an email, so even people that don't have Fantastical can participate. Everyone is directed to a web URL where they pick from the options presented. If everyone picks a date and time that works, the event is automatically added to your calendar. If everyone can't make it at the same time, you'll receive a notification that none of your times worked and you'll have to propose some new times.

Fantastical 3

Fantastical 3 (Image credit: iMore)

No more texting back and forth (or in the case of my job, sending Slack messages back and forth) all day until a good time is finally picked. Just send out a message and let Fantastical do all of the scheduling.

My favorite part about this feature is that invitees don't have to be Fantastical users in order to participate in picking a time. Everyone can pick. Fantastical users get the event added automatically once it's been confirmed unanimously.

Another big feature comes in the form of tasks. You've always been able to see and take action on your iCloud Reminders, but Fantastical 3 takes it a step further with the integration of Todoist and Google Tasks. Now, not only can you see and tick the done box on daily single items, but you can also see, edit, add to, and tick off sub-tasks for projects.

If you want to add a task right in Fantastical, all you have to do is start typing the word "task" into the add field and it will switch from the event view to a task view. Then, just type the task you want to add and it'll be added to your task list (you can also choose which list to add it to). You can also switch to a view that only shows your task list instead of your daily event list.

Fantastical 3

Fantastical 3 (Image credit: iMore)

With events and tasks, you can also create templates to use any time you want. It's different from recurring events or tasks. This is for when you do something often, but it's not always the same day or time. If, for example, you get a haircut every six weeks, but it's not always the same day and time, create a template that you can quickly use when scheduling the next haircut appointment.

You can now include travel time with location-based events. First, add the location of the event. Then, open the event's additional features to get the "Travel Time" feature. Using your current location and the location of the event, Fantastical will estimate your travel time. You can even add additional travel time manually (because, you know, traffic). With travel time turned on, you can get alerts to let you know when you should leave.

Fantastical has added a fun new feature called "Interesting Calendars." Fantastical uses the SchedJoules API to bring pre-made events from holidays, sports, TV, Finance, and popular events to your calendar. Tap one of the categories, like sports, then pick a sub-category, like your favorite team, and add it to your calendar. Then, you'll be able to see all of the games scheduled for the season.

Fantastical 3

Fantastical 3 (Image credit: iMore)

Fantastical has also teamed up with AccuWeather to provide the daily forecast. With the subscription model, you can see 10 days out. Events that have a location attached to them will also display weather details for that specific area.

With Time Zones, you can easily see what time it will be for people in a different time zone. This is invaluable in my remote work environment. We live all over the world, so I've added their different locations for my co-workers to my favorite time zones. Now, I can see what time it is for everyone at a specific time and take that into consideration when creating a new event.

For those remote meetings, as I have all the time, you can add a remote meeting link from Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Google Meets. I do this all the time for Google Meets, but I normally have to go directly to my Google calendar in order to add the meeting link.

With a fantastical subscription, you can also change the color of events, combine duplicate events, hide events, change the Home screen icon, use custom alerts, and more.

Fantastical is also now a stand-alone app for Apple Watch that doesn't even need iPhone support if you've got the cellular model. You can check your events, get notifications, and more while your iPhone is at home. With a subscription, all of your calendar sets and customizations sync across all of your devices, including Apple Watch.

This is all just what's available today, at launch. Flexibits also has a number of updates and new features in the pipeline that will roll out throughout the year. As a subscriber, you'll get all of those features, whenever they are ready, instead of having to wait for a dot update or full revamp a few years down the road.

It's worth it

Who should subscribe and who shouldn't

Fantastical 3 (Image credit: iMore)

Fantastical 3 (Image credit: iMore)

Fantastical 3 (Image credit: iMore)

Source: iMore

You're at a crossroads here. You used to pay for Fantastical's major updates, one version at a time, one app at a time. But now, you can download all of the apps for free on Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch, but it comes at the cost of a subscription.

Fantastical 2 came in at $5 for the iPhone version, $15 for the iPad version, and $50 for the Mac version for a total of $70 if you wanted all three. For $40 per year, you can have all versions of Fantastical 3. Assuming a major update every two years across the board, you'd only be paying about $5 more to upgrade all of these apps anyway. Of course, it's not a direct comparison because Fantastical on the Mac didn't have a regular upgrade cycle.

Here's the thing though, your subscription helps Flexibits regularly add awesome new features that you don't have to wait two years for. Plus, with this reliable revenue coming in, the developers can imagine a whole lot more that the company wouldn't have otherwise been able to afford to do on a monthly basis.

The features that come with a Flexibits subscription are many. However, not everyone needs things like meeting time proposals or travel time notifications. If you don't check your calendar about 25 times per day, if you don't map out every hour of your life with lists, events, and tasks, you may be happy with the free version, especially if you're a Fantastical 2 user.

If you are a Fantastical 2 user and you really hate change, stick with your special upgraded version. You get more than a dozen free features that non-upgraders have to pay for. You win either way.

If you only ever used Fantastical on your iPhone, I don't think you need a subscription. The free version will probably fit your basic needs.

If you've had Fantastical for iPhone and iPad, but never went for the Mac app, you're kind of in the middle. I'd recommend delving into the free 14-day trial to see if there are any features you just can't live without. Remember, if you're upgrading from Fantastical 2, you get a lot of great features without needing to subscribe, so you might be better off sticking with your free upgraded version.

If you've always paid for Fantastical's apps across all of your devices, you're like me and you know just how invaluable all of these great new features are. You know they're worth dropping $40 once per year on. You just might be feeling a little subscription fatigued. Think of it this way: You're just paying for two major updates upfront and in exchange, you get the benefit of a company that doesn't have to wait to give you all the awesome goodies the developers come up with all year long.

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Bottomline: With this update, Fantastical basically has it all. And with a premium subscription, you'll also always get the updates even if it doesn't currently have everything you need.

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).

39 Comments
  • Sounds as if someone paid you to write this glorifying review. Their subscription model does not work for many. Don't me a goob about it
  • That’s why they offer it for free and why they’re giving Fantastical 2 upgraders more than a dozen of the premium features for free. You don’t have to subscribe to get an awesome experience.
  • Yea, except they broke the watch app for me. I paid for V2, and run my own CalDev server so I'm not logging into **their** server just to make my watch read data it has always gotten from my phone just fine (it just keeps saying "you're not logged in..."). The app is pretty, and I would've bought an upgrade, but I'm not subscribing to anything else, and I'm not logging into their server just because they want me to. Just deleted the app from my watch. Too bad they left me behind.
  • Except it's NOT an awesome experience. I've used every version of Fantastical on every platform it was available since V1 and gladly paid for it because it was above and beyond the competition. Even though V2 upgraded users are getting some of these features for "free," the app is full of UI traps to get you to upgrade and constantly reminding you of what you can't do without forking over a fee. Also, how is hiding a full-screen day view behind a paywall a good experience?! This whole upgrade reeks of greed. I can understand if they wanted to make features like smart scheduling, weather and interesting calendars part of a subscriber-only set, but basic UI views? Come on, Lori. You can't think that's worth $50 a year. Go ahead and make these new features part of a one-time unlock for in-app purchases, but adding yet another subscription when most of us are already getting fatigued for a **** CALENDAR APP is ludicrous. It's their app and they have the right to choose what they want, but you can't fault people flooding the store with negative reviews for this.
  • It deserves negative reviews. It's clear it's not about the customer experience anymore and just about the $$$
  • Lory, please try using the app on another computer or different user account on your Mac without the premium subscription. You'll find that much of what you wrote is simply not true, because what flexibits stated is not true. While adding some new features for free, they DID take away existing features for previous owners. And anyone who "updated" the app on any of the platforms got "upgraded" to the new subscription version and the app they previously paid for is now nagware. Half of the app real estate is now links to subscribe. And how is a desktop calendar app with no day view, week view or month view an "awesome experience". Unlike many others, I don't fault them for making the new version a subscription, but they botched the rollout. They should have kept the old versions around and let people have their choice of upgrading instead of forcing this nagware onto their paying customers while taking away features. They don't even need to keep updating the old version. I wasn't expecting a pay-once app to be updated until the end of time. I typically like your articles and enjoy listening to you on your podcasts, but unfortunately you are way off on this one. I hope you do some more research on this and try the non-premium subscription versions for yourself and then update the article accordingly.
  • I agree, but I won't be as gentle. I've rarely commented on iMore, but this "review" was so fluffy and uncritical and false that it's just salt on the wound. I'd happily ignore the $400/decade greed grab (that is apparently chump change for this writer), but the Flexbits prompts to upgrade can't be ignored for long as they are all over the app. The furious comments here are justified as responses both to the ever-increasing insanity of the Apple subscription model as well as this writer's uncritical, blind take on this greed and theft. I want the money I paid to these jerks just a year ago. Since I did already pay for the apps as they were, Flexbits needs to suppress popups and the menu items which aren't available to non-subscribed users. This would show that they aren't simply out to make bank by gouging as many users as possible.
  • I completely agree longboat. The problem for me isn't that they are adding premium features....the issue is that they are in you face as a user. Suppress the menu items if I am not premium so I don't have extraneous menu items. Also, stop the popups that keep telling me to pay more. This is impacting usability and intuitiveness.
  • +1. It's a terrible move. I am also a paying user and I have no need or interest in another subscription, particularly for an app I already paid for. It's obnoxious and it's disingenuous for them to claim it's anything other than a cash grab for business reasons.
  • How many subscription fees do these developers expect people to pay? This is simply a "screw you" to all their loyal users, and to new users as well
  • I was waiting for Fantastical 3 and ready to purchase it when it comes out . Instead, they switched to subscription model so it’s time to say “goodbye Fantastical!” They had my money if they had wanted it, but they don’t want it, apparently. It’s too bad that they chose to go after a market that doesn’t exist. Businesses already have enterprise calendar apps, they don’t need Fantastical! RIP Fantastical .
  • The review is openly hostile in tone towards readers who are trying to consider the value of the app which is just plain odd. That said it is clear the reviewer did not actually use anything but the beta PREMIUM version of the app nor verified the claims of Flexibits in how they would implement 2.x features in 3.x if you choose to not pay for the subscription. 1. If you were a paid user of 2.x ($70 for all 3 platforms) the features are "unlocked" in 3.x ... HOWEVER they are in a UI that has blurring and red stars all over to remind the user of what they lack by not having subscribed at all times. It makes the UI harder to use than 2.x in this case. Further simple actions in the UI such as dragging down on the calendar cause pop ups to appear asking you to upgrade to Premium over and over again with no ability to stop them. This is not "unlocking" previous features it is putting them in an app that is intentionally hobbled and downgraded to force you to make a choice to leave or pay. 2. The reviewer refers to "special gifts that flexibits gives us" for "free" as 2.x users if we choose not to pay for the subscription. Well the problem is I paid for them already AND Flexibits REMOVED 2.x from the apps stores so I have NO CHOICE but to go to 3.x to continue using the app. This isn't like most other developers who created a new version of the app when they went to a subscription model, in this case I literally woke up and my iPhone and Mac had 3.x already running with a crippled UI and no way to move back if I want. Thanks for the "special gift!" 3. Surprisingly unlike most I am willing to pay $40 a year for a subscription to all 3 Apple platforms for what is clearly the best calendar app out there... but there was a big catch I discovered. My $70 in purchases of 2.x were justified to me because they support Apple Family Sharing (like vast majority of paid apps and subscription apps) so my wife and 2 children could also use Fantastical on their devices. The new 3.x *DOES NOT SUPPORT FAMILY SHARING*. In order for my family to use Fantastical 3.x without a crippled pop up interface begging for money I would have to pay $160 PER YEAR for the use of a calendar app. I'm not a corporation, I'm a family but at this insensible pricing structure I have no choice but to leave and not support a developer that I agree is deserving of support. I've contacted them and they say they plan to offer a "family plan" in the "future" but they launched the product without one, removed the old version from the stores, auto-upgraded me to a broken app, and obviously expect that even a future family plan will be yet more than the $40 the subscription would cost me right now. Sadly these reviews on Fantastical 3 have all missed the boat because they were based on a beta with premium already activated (and for free.) It's time the reviewers go back and try the claims of Flexibits in all 3 different configurations (free / former 2.x user / premium) and see just how great the app really is. If they are honest they will say the ONLY real way fantastical is useable is in the premium configuration and then they have to honestly address if $40 a year pricing for an app that isn't even useable by your spouse or kids is reasonable or realistically has a chance at success. It doesn't matter how good the app is if you price yourself out of having anyone ever use it while hurting your former customers by taking what they have already paid for in the night without their knowing.
  • A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! Thank you BoldBlue for such a thorough explanation of the updates and paid model. I do think this raving review was/is biased because it clearly doesn't reflect the experience of the majority of users.
  • You need to remember that Fantastical's developer Flexibits is part of that "special" clique of developers that are circlejerked to death among the "premier" Apple related sites. There are probably several calendar apps that are equal or better, but we'll never see them written about on iMore, MacStories, 9to5Mac, etc. As for the app itself, yeah, no thanks. I only used it on the iPhone, and paid like $5-6 for it (can't remember). I don't need or want the iPad or Mac app. Now they're asking $40/yr? I liked Fantastical, but don't like it that much. And they can take their "cup-of-coffee" weasel-excuse and shove it up their colons. I don't drink overpriced first-world hipster coffee anyway. What they're asking for equals a heck of a lot of coffee in my part of the world. iMore should stop the disinformation campaign as well. I was supposed to retain all the features I paid for previously with Fantastical 2, but that's clearly not the case in version 3. I can no longer set reminders, which was my primary use for Fantastical prior to this new version/bastardization. The only subscription that's worth paying is Carrot Weather's Tier 1 (for the additional data sources) at $5/yr. All the rest from the cabal - Fantastical 3, Drafts 5, 1Password, Moleskine, Carrot Weather's Tier 2, etc - are just cutthroat.
  • Agreed - this review is misleading in many ways, as the app is seriously degraded. As you point out, these proliferating subscriptions are nothing more than unappealing schemes to transfer more money from the user's wallet into the developer's.
  • Thanks for writing all that up. Matches my situation in many ways. In particular, family sharing is important and makes the price jump much more substantial. One thing though: I updated my Mac app, and now I'm told that Day (and Week and Month and Year) "view is only available with Fantastical Premium". Huh? I have not activated the 14 day trial because I want to see what the promised improvements to non-subscribing existings Fantastical 2 owners looks like. Unlike the written notes, it looks like it removes major function.
  • Our family is not using Fantatstical and after reading that it is $40 per user, I cannot see trying it out. My wife uses Pocket Informant (which I used years ago but switched to Apple's built-in calendar app for simplicity). Incidentally, iOS and macOS built-in calendar does handle natural language event entry (maybe not as well, but it does it). I think you nailed the #1 problem with these in-app purchase subscriptions -- 100% of in-app purchases do NOT work with family sharing. In fact developers can NOT even make it so you can share an in-app purchase, its literally impossible in the iOS SDK. In the App Store under the "Supports" heading for "Family Sharing" it even tells you "In-app purchases can't be shared with family members". When we upgraded to 1Password 7 we setup our family plan on AgileBits' website and they have a very sensible family plan that allows for ANY size family (and I have 5 kids -- one of which can't be on Apple's Family Sharing since it limits families to 6 people). 1Password does $5 per month ($60 per year) for a family of 5 and then $1 extra per person per month for additional family members. All subscription plans should have a sensible family option and Apple should make family-sharing an option for in-app purchases. For a calendar app, I would think $40 per year should cover the whole family and maybe $30 or $25 per year for a single user. After all it is a calendar app and many features are only really good if you have multiple people using the same calendar app (like coordinating event times). Asking $40 per month per person is insane and its kinda high for one person for a calendar app whose functionality is easily replaceable.
  • Very well said. I could not have said it better.
  • I don’t see $40 per year as a small price. Unlike the reviewer, I’m not overly impressed with Fantastical’s features. For now, I’ll stick with BusyCal. However, like everything else, this is simply my opinion based on my experience. Others are likely to feel differently. I respect that.
  • Thanks Lory for reminding me to leave a 1-star review. They ruined a good app with this premium nonsense.
  • > Who should subscribe and who shouldn't Nobody should subscribe.
  • Agree 100%. If you subscribe to this you either have too much money or just don't care about this company robbing you in broad daylight
  • I find myself agreeing with many of the reviews already posted. I wish I could use just one app across all my devices Watch/iPhone/iPad/MacBook Air. Sadly, even with this update, I cannot. The iPhone app is severely lacking. Still no month view. That's a non-starter for me. I can't tell what is going on in the month view with all these little stupid dots and dashes all over the screen. Other competing products have figured this out, but unfortunately they don't have desktop apps yet. I wish just one company would get this right, across the board. Until then, Fantastical free on MBA, and Calendars 5 on the iPhone/iPad/Watch
  • That’s not accurate. There certainly is a full calendar month view now in 3.0 premium on iPhone. Click the 3 lines in a box to the left of the words “All Calendars” and select “Full Screen / Month” in the pop up menu. I personally don’t think it looks quite as good as some competitors but it is there, if you want to pay $40 per person, per year to get it.
  • After reading the review I installed the app on my iPad Pro. The free version is not very usable. In the free version NONE of the views are available. Only the sidebar is shown. The main area (about 70%) of the rest of the screen displays a message that it is only available with a subscription. This doesn't stop the app from being great, but Lori, you very much have this wrong on your review. This tainted, for me anyway, the product enough that I uninstalled it.
  • I won't beat this(or Lori) up any more than has already been done. I will just say that I don't think this was a good move for a calendar app. I hope it works out for them one way or another. I have enjoyed using the app over the years. I use my calendar extensively on my phone, iPad and Mac, but this still doesn't sit well with me as a subscription. I have other options and have already moved on. It wasn't that hard at all.
  • Is this a joke? Can’t we own any app anymore? A single calendar app, even a good one, charging $40 dollars a year to show my data. What a terrible article!
  • Thankfully there are still apps you can own, for now. Once one app goes downhill, there's usually a better alternative
  • "Fantastical 3 review: You can throw all your other calendar apps in the trash" Thanks but I think it's time to throw Famtastical in the trash. They converted my expensive apps into subscription garbage, Everyone who feels the same please be sure and leave a 1 start review.
  • Please just reinstate v2 as a separate download or reintroduce previous features without the subscription, in particular: Calendar leave notifications, Google Hangouts/Meet support, invitees at the very least. Disappointed in this roll out as well; article reads like sponsored content.
  • If they'd have made Fantastical 3 a separate download, I would've still been annoyed but I would've continued to use version 2. The fact that they've just replaced v2 with this crap is really a kick in the teeth to all users who paid good money for v2
  • I don't
    need a subscription to a calendar. My calendar needs are manageable without a monthly fee. I'll stick with version 2.